Man killed in Taylorsville standoff was shot by police four years earlier

Dec 2, 2021, 4:36 PM | Updated: 11:32 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah man killed in a shootout with police Wednesday had been shot by an officer while a teenager just four years ago.

Anei Gabriel Joker first faced criminal charges in the juvenile system, then picked up subsequent robbery, assault and weapons convictions as an adult, bouncing in and out of the Salt Lake County Jail.

That violent history ended when Joker, 20, died in an exchange of gunfire that left two officers wounded.

The deadly shootout – and a string of Joker’s crimes preceding it – raise questions about whether Utah’s criminal justice system handled his prior cases appropriately.

A deadly shootout 

Late Wednesday, officers from several police agencies had been looking for Joker in connection with a rape and robbery investigation. They located him at 9 p.m. at a 7-Eleven at 4110 S. Redwood Road.

Joker was inside an SUV with a 9-month-old child and other adults.

West Valley Police Chief Colleen Jacobs said Joker agreed to allow the officers to get the baby from the vehicle just before 10 p.m. Wednesday but refused to get out of the car. The others inside the SUV also eventually left leaving Joker by himself.

Roxanne Vainuku, spokeswoman for West Valley City police, said officers fired pepper balls at Joker about 10:29 p.m.

The first shots were fired one minute later, at 10:30 p.m.

“After a period of time, he did come out of the vehicle firing a weapon,” Jacobs said.

A second ambulance and medical helicopter were called just three minutes later.

Joker was pronounced dead roughly a half-hour after he arrived at the hospital.

Suspect killed, 2 officers wounded in Taylorsville parking-lot shootout

One West Valley officer underwent surgery and was in serious but stable condition Thursday. A second officer with Unified police was recovering at home after being treated at a hospital.

Previous police shooting

Four years earlier, a Cottonwood Heights police sergeant attempted to pull Joker over on Interstate 15 near 1300 South on Sept. 3, 2017, according to court documents filed in juvenile court in Salt Lake County.

Utah Third District Juvenile Court Petition for Anei Joker (redacted) by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

After a 100-mph chase, Joker crashed into an off-ramp and ran away on foot before ultimately complying with police orders to sit on the ground, but continually moved his arms toward his waistband several times, police said.

Sergeant Chris McHugh told the teenager to stop moving his hand and yelled, “don’t, don’t, don’t” before shooting Joker, the court filings say.

Body camera video shows an injured Anei Joker on Sept. 3, 2017, after he was shot by a Cottonwood Heights police sergeant. The shooting was ruled justified two months later.

Joker underwent surgery to treat a gunshot wound and was released a week later. At the hospital, medics found a loaded handgun in his underwear, court documents say.

Gill ruled the shooting legally justified within two months. Joker faced charges in the juvenile system, including unlawfully possessing a weapon and failing to respond to an officer’s command, both third-degree felonies.

Pam Vickrey, executive director of Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys, confirmed the charges in that case were later dismissed. She declined to give any specifics, saying her office hasn’t represented Joker in over 3 ½ years.

“It’s a difficult case, and our hearts go out to everyone involved,” Vickrey said.

Joker’s extensive record

Court records show Joker had an extensive criminal record as an adult. He was also known as Ramon Julima.

In 2019 Joker was arrested in connection with a shooting in West Valley City. Court documents state he was charged with fleeing from police. After officers stopped the vehicle, they found a man who had been shot inside the car.

He was convicted of aggravated robbery in June and received a suspended prison sentence – meaning he would not be incarcerated if he followed terms of supervised release – with credit for time served, and three years’ probation.

Just before he was sentenced on that most recent case, Joker told a judge he wanted to change, saying, “If I mess up one time, send me away,” according to court audio recordings.

“I just want to be able to be there for my family, my kids, to be able to take care of them,” he said.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says his office pushed for prison time for Joker after extending a plea offer that retained the most critical charges across multiple cases.

“Even though the pre-sentence report recommended probation, we argued very aggressively for prison,” Gill said.

But Third District Judge Matthew Bates ordered probation for Joker’s convictions of assault, robbery and weapons charges.

Bates said prosecutors had made good points about the concerning quantity and violent nature of the charges against Joker, but he also considered Joker’s age and the fact that he had not yet been sentenced to probation as an adult.

“I’m hoping that having you on supervised probation will help get you on the right track,” Bates told Joker during his July sentencing hearing. “If it doesn’t, then you’ve got consecutive prison sentences hanging over your head.”

Sentencing in Utah 

Adult Probation & Parole Director Dan Blanchard said his agents recommended supervised release instead of prison based on the state’s sentencing guidelines. The guidelines don’t consider still-pending cases – like one Joker had in California – that haven’t resulted in a conviction yet.

Dan Strong, director of the Utah Sentencing Commission, said it’s critical that all the players in the justice system — including law enforcers, defense attorneys and judges – have accurate and detailed information about a defendant.

“The fact that this happened shows that at some point, that assessment wasn’t good enough, in this case,” said Strong, director of the Utah Sentencing Commission. The office advises each branch of the state’s government on sentencing and supervise release policy.

“In the very best criminal justice system on the planet, there will be gaps, and there will be cases — there will be terrible tragedies,” Strong said. While cases like Joker’s call for scrutiny of the system, he said, it’s important not to assume that changes based on one example are a good solution for the state.

Joker was on probation in Orange County, California at the time of his death.

He pleaded guilty in September to misdemeanor charges of carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in public and having a prohibited large-capacity magazine, California court documents say.

Calls to defense attorneys who have represented him in both states did not make themselves available Thursday.

Adult Probation and Parole is at work on its own review of how it handled Joker’s cases, Blanchard said. He did not know whether the agency will release the review to the public.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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Man killed in Taylorsville standoff was shot by police four years earlier